Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED Review: Beauty and a Beast of a Price

by Reads (15,977)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 9
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 4
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Features
      • 9
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.57
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Outstanding OLED screen
    • Impressive battery life
    • Business-class thin and light
    • Excellent keyboard
  • Cons

    • Expensive
    • Frustratingly small pen
    • RAM is not upgradeable
    • No USB Type-C or Thunderbolt

We previously reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga and called it “Lenovo’s top-shelf ThinkPad convertible” … albeit with a hefty price tag. Earlier this year Lenovo made the ThinkPad X1 Yoga even more attractive thanks to the inclusion of a 14-inch Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) display. The real-world benefits of OLED are dramatically superior color reproduction and exceptional contrast with blacks that show no visible backlight bleeding. If you haven’t seen a notebook or smartphone with an OLED screen then you probably don’t realize just how “bright” black and shadow areas are on a traditional LCD. This notebook is eye candy in the best possible way.

That being said, is the OLED version worth the nearly $1,700 asking price? The short answer is yes … but read this Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED review to find out why.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED 14-inch OLED screen

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED with 14-inch screen

Build and Design

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED looks so much like other thin-and-light ThinkPads in Lenovo’s current product line that the design is arguably unremarkable. This notebook is thinner and lighter than previous generation ThinkPads thanks to external dimensions of just 13.1 by 9 by 0.66 inches, but this is very close to “normal” for a modern 14-inch thin-and-light notebook.

The matching 360-degree metal hinges are what makes the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED a convertible notebook. The hinges allow you to use the notebook like a tablet by flipping back the screen and folding it flat against the base of the chassis. Similarly, you can stop rotating the screen at about 270 degrees and flip the notebook upside down for the tent-like “Connect” mode or rest the keyboard face down on your desk for “Present” mode.

If convertible notebooks have a fundamental flaw it comes down to weight. Sure, 2.8 pounds is lightweight for a 14-inch notebook but most dedicated tablets weigh 1.6 pounds or less and are noticeably thinner since they don’t have a physical keyboard.

The chassis is made of magnesium alloy and carbon fiber making it quite sturdy and more durable than a budget-priced thin-and-light. Lenovo tested the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED against military specifications and the fit and finish is excellent.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED chassis top Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED chassis bottom

One of the compromises that Lenovo had to make in order to keep the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED so thin is the removal of user upgrades You won’t find any access panels on the bottom of the chassis. Even if you remove all nine Phillips-head screws and split the chassis in half you’ll only find a single M.2 slot for a size 2280 SSD. The LPDDR3 RAM is soldered to the motherboard and cannot be upgraded after purchase.

Input and Output Ports

Although ThinkPads typically come with a number of “legacy” ports like VGA, Ethernet and sometimes even Serial ports, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED is simply too thin for those to be built in. If you want to expand the number of ports, you’ll need to purchase Lenovo’s OneLink+ dock or the ThinkPad Stack accessories. The dock connects via a dedicated port on the left side of the chassis. The X1 Yoga doesn’t support the traditional snap-in docking stations used with the T-series ThinkPads. And, just like in our previous review of the X1 Yoga, Lenovo didn’t include a USB Type-C port despite the fact that most competitors are using USB Type-C.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED ports left Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED ports right

On the left side of the chassis you’ll find the proprietary rectangular AC power jack, OneLink+ docking connector, mini-DisplayPort, and a USB 3.0. The right side has the pen slot, recessed power button, volume rocker, headphone/microphone combination jack, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, full-size HDMI, and Kensington lock slot. 

The rear edge of the chassis doesn’t have any of the traditional ports but there is a hidden access panel for the microSD and SIM card slots. You cannot open that small panel (or any part of the rear edge) when the notebook’s lid is open.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED microSD and SIM card slots Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED stylus

The built-in pen feels more like a smartphone stylus; helpful when you want to write down quick notes or sign a digital document but too flimsy for extended periods of writing or drawing. Simply put, the Lenovo pen fits conveniently into the thin chassis but doesn’t feel anywhere near as nice as the Apple Pen or Microsoft’s Surface Pen.

Screen and Speakers

Let’s cut right to the chase: the OLED screen makes this notebook look amazing. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) are fundamentally different from the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) found in most portable devices because the individual pixels of the OLED display are illuminated instead of using a backlight behind the entire screen. This means there is no visible backlight bleeding and black or shadow areas are much darker because there is less (or no) light coming from those areas of the display.

This makes the luminance values from an OLED panel noticeably different from the LCDs we normally review. Lenovo advertises the screen brightness of the OLED display as 300 cd/m² but the true brightness of the display varies dramatically based on the amount of white being displayed at any given time. The variable brightness isn’t just because there might be more or fewer illuminated pixels on the screen; the actual screen brightness is variable because of Lenovo’s use of automatic brightness control. In other words, as the total number of illuminated pixels on the entire screen increases the brightness of the illuminated pixels decreases … and as the total number of illuminated pixels on the entire screen decreases the brightness of the illuminated pixels increases. We first noticed the variable brightness when writing a Word document with black text on a mostly white background and then switched to browsing Netflix with a mostly black background … whites suddenly appeared much brighter on the Netflix website than the white background of the Word document.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED screen front Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED screen side
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED screen top Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED screen bottom

The 14-inch OLED panel has a WQHD native resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The resulting pixel density of 210 PPI means that fine details are rendered with pinpoint sharpness. At first glance our only criticism is the additional glossy touch screen surface that covers and protects the display panel. Added protection is good, but the glossy touch screen surface means reflections and glare become a problem indoors under bright lights or outdoors under sunlight. That said, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED is available with standard IPS-LCD panels if you need a screen with anti-glare properties.

As we mentioned in our previous review, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED’s speakers are buried inside the chassis but still produce reasonably loud and clear sound. You’ll want to connect a quality set of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker if you care about premium audio quality, but the built-in speakers work fine for webcasts or watching a few short YouTube videos.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED keyboardKeyboard and Touchpad

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED uses uses a variation of the company’s patented “lift and lock” keyboard tray. The keyboard tray surrounding the individual Chiclet-style keys automatically rises up as the lid is folded backwards into tablet mode. This makes the keyboard surface flush with the tops of the keys and prevents you from accidentally popping off the key caps with your fingers or jewelry when holding the notebook in tablet mode.

The trade-off that comes with the lift and lock mechanism is slightly reduced key travel, a key press on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED feels “shallower” than it does on traditional ThinkPads like the ThinkPad T460s. Still, the keyboard feels excellent for a thin-and-light design. The key action is crisp with no flex in the keyboard tray. White LED backlighting is available in two levels, toggled via Fn + Spacebar.

As with most ThinkPads, you’ll find dedicated Home and End keys at the upper right, while the Page Up and Page Down keys are in the arrow key cluster. The Function Lock key combination (Fn + Esc) allows you to toggle the function row F1-F12 keys as primary, or their underlying functions such as screen brightness and volume adjustments.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED trackpadThe buttonless touchpad is far less impressive than the keyboard. The touchpad surface itself is large enough for a 14-inch notebook and you can press down anywhere to produce a click. Unfortunately, the touchpad doesn’t consistently register the difference between a left click and a right click. Frequently we would intend to perform a left click, only to be greeted by the right-click menu appearing on the screen. As a result, we found ourselves switching to the red UltraNav pointing stick in the center of the keyboard and the dedicated left, center, and right click mouse buttons located beneath the space bar. The pointing stick and the dedicated mouse buttons delivered far more consistent results than the touchpad.

Performance

This device performs quite well for a premium business-class thin-and-light Ultrabook. Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED review unit comes with the Intel Core i7-6600U dual-core model, running at 2.6GHz base, with the ability to dynamically jump to 3.4GHz using its Turbo Boost feature. This is more than sufficient processing power for most usages, including light photo and video editing. The Core i5-6200U processor comes inside the entry-level configurations, which runs at 2.3GHz with a Turbo Boost to 2.8GHz. Average business users won’t notice the difference between the entry-level i5-6200U and the upgraded i7-6600U model in our review unit if they’re running with just 8GB of system RAM.

Graphics processing is courtesy of the integrated Intel HD 520, which is built into the Core i7-6600U processor. It’s fast enough for everyday usage and up to 4K video playback. It’s generally not capable of playing the latest 3D games, though.

The RAM in this notebook is of the LPDDR3-1600 variety which is soldered to the motherboard. It unfortunately can’t be upgraded after the fact. Entry-level configurations come with 8GB of system RAM and Lenovo offers 16GB of RAM with Core i7-6600U processor configurations like the one we’re reviewing here.

Storage options are limited to M.2 format SSDs, as the X1 Yoga is simply too thin to house a 2.5-inch drive bay. Offered capacities range from 128GB to 1TB. The 256GB SSD in our review unit is the higher-performance NVMe version, which raises the overall price even more.

Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED review unit has the following technical specifications:

  • 14.0-inch WQHD OLED touch display (2560 x 1440 resolution, glossy surface)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-6600U dual-core processor (2.6GHz, up to 3.4GHz Turbo Boost, 4MB cache, 15W TDP)
  • Intel HD 520 integrated graphics
  • 16GB LPDDR3-1600 dual-channel RAM (non-expandable)
  • 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 wireless network adapter
  • Internal Bluetooth 4.1
  • Built-in 720p webcam
  • Dimensions: 13.1″ x 9.01 x 0.66 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Price as configured: $2,289.60

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
oledwprimechart

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
oledpc8homechart

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
oledpc8workchart

3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):
oled3d11chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
oled3dfirestrikechart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
x1yogaoledcdm

Heat and Noise

The single exhaust vent at the back right side of the chassis occasionally turns on during general usage. The Intel Core i5 and i7 dual-core processors available in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED are quite power-efficient, helping to keep the heat down. The chassis gets lukewarm around the top and bottom of the exhaust vent but the external temperatures never reached what we would call “hot.” The vent is positioned so that it isn’t blocked while the ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED is being used as a tablet. The fan has no whine and is therefore hard to notice. The fan is audible at top speed but we only heard the fan speed up to maximum while testing graphically intense games and running high-stress synthetic benchmarks. The fan usually stays off, making the notebook totally silent. The fan occasionally kicks on at lower RPM while streaming video.

Power Adapter

The ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED includes a 65W power adapter (20V/3.25A). The cords extend end to end, including the length of the power adapter unit, 9 feet, 7 inches. The total setup weighs 0.64 pounds. It’s overall a nicely compact solution. The adapter unit gets warm while charging the unit, which is normal.

Battery Life

We use Futuremark’s Powermark benchmark to measure battery life. This test is much more demanding than a standard battery rundown test. It uses a combination of automated web browsing, 3D gaming, video playback, and office productivity workloads to give a worst-case scenario. We set the screen brightness at 50 percent, and put the notebook’s wireless radios in airplane mode.

The previously reviewed X1 Yoga with WQHD IPS touch display ran for 4 hours, 48 minutes. Much to our surprise there was no significant difference in the battery life of our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED review unit, which came in at 4 hours and 52 minutes. Add about 30 percent to estimate real-world, light usage with lower screen brightness, and you’re looking at about six and a half hours of to seven hours of battery life. That’s a respectable time on par with other 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPads but lagging behind convertibles with lower power processors like the HP Spectre x360, which went for over six hours in the Powermark benchmark.

PowerMark “Balanced” battery life test results (higher scores mean better life):
oledpowerchart

Conclusion

DSC04328Whether or not you decide to purchase this device boils down to one thing: Do you value having one of the best-looking screens you can find on any notebook?

The $2,289.60 price of our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED review unit is pretty expensive but, at the time of this writing, you can purchase the entry-level X1 Yoga with a FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS-Touch display directly from Lenovo’s website for $1,394.10 with instant savings. The same entry-level configuration with WQHD (2560 x 1440) OLED Touch screen costs $1,682.10 with instant savings. That means you’re paying close to a $300 premium for both OLED screen technology and WQHD resolution. If we planned to purchase the X1 Yoga and had the budget to spend an extra $300 then we would happily do so for OLED, but we recognize not everyone will be in that position … and some people would rather have the anti-glare IPS display rather than a glossy OLED.

Battery life is essentially identical regardless of whether you choose the WQHD IPS display or the WQHD OLED display. That said, the FHD (1080p) display shouldn’t consume as much power and that means better battery life. Unfortunately, the negative issues we mentioned in our previous review of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga remain unchanged. This is one of the more expensive business-class thin-and -light notebooks on the market, the included pen is frustratingly small, you can’t upgrade the RAM after purchase and there’s no USB Type-C port to use with the increasing number of USB Type-C devices.

Nevertheless, we must stress that the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga OLED looks absolutely amazing. If you want a screen that makes your eyes feel like they’re smiling every time you look at the screen then you might just want to spend the extra cash to get this configuration. No one who sees this display with their own eyes will fault you for buying it.

Pros:

  • Outstanding OLED screen
  • Impressive battery life
  • Business-class thin and light
  • Excellent keyboard

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Frustratingly small pen
  • RAM is not upgradeable
  • No USB Type-C or Thunderbolt



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  1. sooomitin

    Can somebody please confirm whether i7-6600U is capable of running the 4K HEVC 10 bit videos smoothly? I have a Dell Latitude E5470 that has i5-6200U with 4 GB RAM, but it can’t just handle 4K HEVC 10 bit (Skylake CPUs don’t officially support this spec, but the forthcoming Kabi Lake CPUs do).